A friend of mine runs a small landscape business and one day he came to me for help. He is very busy man, beginning his day very early dispatching crews, visiting sites during the day, meeting with potential clients in the early evening, and sitting at his desk for hours at night working on proposals and invoices. It is not a 9 to 5 job, or even a 5 to 9 job. He has lots of trucks and equipment and some really good people. He makes good money and if he doesn’t kill himself by the age of 30 he might be able to enjoy some of it one day.
He had a client who decided to bid out their sites. My friend wanted to make sure his renewals were in line and was thinking about adjusting his prices, but he wanted my opinion. I asked him how the jobs were performing. I got a blank stare.
He wasn’t sure how to answer. He had no idea how he would go about finding out. I shared with him the importance of a job costing system in making such decisions. Of course, I explained, you must first have an estimating and proposal system to base your pricing on. In fact, you need an entire financial reporting system to be sure that you are capturing all costs and applying them to each project. This will also allow you to create a budget and plan how you spend your money and manage cash flow.
But, before all of this he would need a proper P&L that would help him gather real-time information and make good decisions. At this point, the blank stare turned to more of an eyes-glazed-over look. I went on to discuss a system for invoicing so he is sure to be getting paid for work. And a job planning-work flow process to schedule work, line up materials and get completed paperwork turned in for billing. And monthly forecasting.
And he should learn Excel. And QuickBooks and find a purchase order system and perform budget review and create a proposal template and find a payroll system and create a mission statement and estimating form and marketingplanwithmarketingmaterialandcreateawebsiteanddirectmailnewsletterandcreatejobpacketsandpolicesandproceduresandanemplyeehandbookandpayscaleandprogressivediscplineprogramandperformancappraiselsystemandcommunicationsprotocolandreportingtructureandjoinPLANETand ... STOP!
The eyes-glazed-over look had suddenly turned to a mouth-wide-open-and-snoring look. Even my head was spinning. At that moment I realized why he doesn’t have any of these programs in place. It’s just too much. It’s just too big of a task and too time consuming. These things must be put off until there is more time. And, if you are working on these projects, who will do all of the other stuff that needs to be done? How can anyone do all of this and still run a business?
Weeks and months and years pass and nothing improves because there is never enough time to work on the business. The fact is that you can’t do it all. Not all at once anyway. The key is to tackle this huge project one bit at a time.
You can start right now.
Begin by making a list of everything you can think of that needs to be done. Don’t pull a brain muscle – it doesn’t have to be everything that you need. Post the list somewhere and as you read Lawn & Landscape, speak to others, attend conferences and trade shows, you will see or hear things you would like to accomplish. Go to the list and write them down.
Set priorities. Commit to doing one thing each week. Promise yourself you will set aside four hours per week (or two, or one, whatever is feasible for you) to work on your list. Break the projects down into multiple tasks and tackle those one at a time.
Don’t look for the end, it won’t be there. Just stay committed to doing something each week. Over time, things will get accomplished. Systems will begin to fall into place and the job of running your business will become easier.
The author is a freelance writer with 35 years of experience in the commercial landscape maintenance industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.